Our web developer Doede sent me a despairing note the other day telling me that the rear wheel of his new, old bakfiets got ripped off. The poor beast looks so sad, like a horse with a broken leg.
In case you’re confused thinking that a bakfiets is a modern, two-wheeler that mom carries her kids in, you’re half correct. That’s a Bakfiets Cargobike, with Bakfiets being the very generic trade name for Maarten van Andel’s brilliant bike. But to Dutch folks “bakfiets” still generally means a giant, heavy duty three-wheeler with a wooden box on the front, a brake lever between your legs and a fixed gear to keep those legs busy. Just to be sure: “bakfiets” is singular and “bakfietsen” is plural. Please remember that as it’s quite painful to read “bakfiet”. Check here for a more detailed description of the etymology of bakfietsen, bakkersfietsen, bakkers, bakken, gebak…
Anyhow the theft raised the question of who would bother stealing an old bakfiets wheel. They’re nearly impossible to find but then again such a wheel has no significant market value. Thus Doede’s wheel was probably stolen by another bakfiets owner whose hub, drum brake or rim finally died after 40 or 50 years of faithful service. And who rides old bakfietsen like these? Well, Doede reasoned, not the sorts of people you’d expect to be stealing their fellow bakfiets riders wheels: hippies, squatters, socialists and others well to the “left” of the socio-political spectrum. Just goes to show you that you can’t judge a book by its cover… or that such demographic stereotypes don’t actually work for crap.
[UPDATE 26-08-09: On Sunday while cycling out of the city with Kyoko and Pascal for a day trip we came across a scene I'd never witnessed before: A building getting broken into and squatted. A raucous mob of perhaps 50 men and women with creative hair and almost entirely black clothing was smashing their way through the door of a pretty, 17th century building in the Weteringschans. Upon breaking the door open the crowd cheered and stormed inside with the contents of a delivery van and no less than two big, old bakfietsen. I also recognized a couple of Amsterdam bakfiets/transportfiets "colleagues" of the old skool variety. Just goes to show you that some stereotypes have a basis in reality.
I pulled my camera out to get a couple pics of the bakfietsen playing a key role in the squatter's life, but I was immediately apprehended by somebody apparently appointed the "no fucking pictures" man of the event.]
In case you’re wondering what sort of rear wheel would be supporting the rear frame of that bakfiets had some scumbag not stolen it, here’s a quick description:
It would look like this one on a brand new WorkCycles Bakfiets, meaning thus that such wheels are actually still available… just not at a price many old-fashioned bakfiets riders are prepared to pay for:
And here’s a picture of a whole, brand-new classic bakfiets, just because I’m so thrilled that such gorgeous, durable, early 20th century vehicles can still be in production. In the background is the Nijland factory where these bikes are made for WorkCycles: